COLLEGE PARK — In the dwindling seconds of the Terrapins women’s basketball team’s season, one little girl in the stands at Xfinity Center clung to hope. Her face decorated with the red, white, black and gold of Maryland’s flag, she cheered for her beloved Terps to rally from a fourth-quarter deficit against Washington.
But as the final buzzer rang, it was the Huskies on top of the Terps 74-65 in the Round of 32 matchup. As Maryland’s 2015-16 season came to an abrupt and unexpected end Monday night, so too did the careers of four of the Terrapins’ seniors.
Guard Brene Moseley, center Malina Howard, guard Chloe Pavlech, and forward Tierney Pfirman are set to graduate in May, and Monday’s heartbreaking upset ended their long, wildly successful tenures on an uncharacteristic note: with a loss on their home floor.
Since the quartet of seniors stepped onto the court for Maryland four years ago, the program has lost a mere eight contests at Xfinity Center, made two Final Four appearances, and soared to two Big Ten titles.
“Us four seniors, we came in and we wanted to have the best season we could and just leave our mark on Maryland,” said a choked-up Howard. “It’s not how we wanted it to end, but I mean I’m glad I got the opportunity to play here … and be a part of a lot of special moments.”
The Lady Terps never established an offensive rhythm against a disruptive Washington team. Huskies center Chantel Osahor’s powerful presence in the post limited Howard and Brionna Jones to a combined total of nine rebounds.
Without the usual dominance of Howard and Jones in the paint, Maryland was forced to make shots from the perimeter. But the Terps struggled there as well, shooting just 37.3 percent on field goal attempts and 35.7 percent from beyond the arc.
On the other end, Washington point guard Kelsey Plum, who ended the day with 32 points, was a nightmare for the Terps. The nation’s fourth-leading scorer did it all for the Huskies, from knocking down shots on the perimeter to, to finding lanes to the basket, to snatching six rebounds.
“We just weren’t ourselves completely offensively,” Howard said. “Towards the end, we started to a little bit, but I think that they’re a great team and once you get to the tournament, every one’s a great team.”
Another red flag that the Terps were in danger of an early elimination from the Big Dance was their lack of ability to get to the free throw line.
Coach Brenda Frese’s squad, usually familiar visitors to the stripe, had just five free-throw attempts throughout the entire game, all of which came in the second half. Comparatively, the Terrapins were 15-of-19 on free-throw attempts in their first-round win over Iona.
One of the only things the Terps did against Washington that was consistent with their play this season was turn the ball over. Maryland’s 15 turnovers fueled the Huskies’ fast break, which steamrolled the Terps down the stretch.
“I thought we played not to lose, instead of playing to win,” Frese said.
The four seniors accepted an early end to their college campaigns with as much grace as they celebrated the wild successes they’ve achieved in their four years on the court.
But many of their younger teammates wished for more time with their mentors beyond the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“I think right now there’s just a lot of disappointment for how we’re sending our seniors out,” sophomore guard Kristen Confroy said after the game. “Maybe tomorrow we’ll look to the future, but for now it’s just being with our seniors.”
With the current crop of seniors on the way out, Maryland has a bright future ahead with the No. 1-ranked recruiting class of 2016, which consists of five separate five-star recruits.
As a final contribution to the program she’s called home for the last four years, Howard left her returning teammates and the entering recruits with some advice for continuing the success she helped foster.
“Just never stop working, never give up…” Howard said. “As long as you’re working hard you may not always have it, but eventually the success is going to come to you.”